Pain receptors are present in most tissues, especially on the surface of the skin - sending signals to the brain which then identifies pain. This is a natural mechanism to alert us to injury so we can react appropriately.
There are different types of pain; both acute and chronic.
The first stage of any injury or trauma. It is where the soft fibres of muscles or tendons have torn or become out of alignment. The injury to the muscle causes blood flow resulting in bruising and swelling around the injured area. This can be experienced as a sharp pain which will instantly make you stop what you are doing.
Acute Pain can present itself in many different ways as a result of different problems, for example, a throbbing pain resulting from an increase in blood flow, and widening of the blood vessels like a migraine. A shooting pain such as sciatica which can be caused by pressure or irritation of the nerve at the point where it comes from the spinal cord. Numbness and tickling can also be experienced down the leg. An injury to the vertebra of the neck or upper back can result in a similar type of pain but numbness and tickling is felt down the arm in these cases.
A very acute and sharp sickening pain, can also be experienced when we break a bone or have a fracture. Sharp spasm type pain is experienced when a muscle receives a trauma or injury, perhaps when we have lifted something awkwardly or made a sudden movement.
To help stem the blood flow and help introduce the healing process, ice should be applied: in future blog pages we will discuss treatment in more depth.
How long the period of injury lasts depends on how serious the injury is, from 3 days to several weeks. After 3 days, it is advisable to start treatment to help with the healing process, realigning the muscle. Any earlier than this will simply stimulate blood flow and not encourage any healing to take place. Ice treatment is therefore advised for the first 3 days, then; light massage, ultra sound and myofascial body work can be applied, but no deep tissue massage at this stage. A tens machine also helps to stimulate the healing process.
A dull aching pain caused by inflammation. Chronic pain results from very tight muscles and/or repetitive action. It can also be a referred pain or a burning pain caused by a nerve entrapment.
Chronic pain is the next stage of injury and lasts from 2 week up to several years. At this stage the muscles, tendons or ligaments have started to heal and a gridmat of soft muscle has started to form. This grid will continue to develop to form stronger muscle.
If the pain has been experienced for several years, then the muscle will have become weak, out of balance or out of alignment and scar tissue would have formed.
The location of chronic pain is a good guide to its source, generally referred as an ache rather like a tooth ache pain, rather than the sharp pain experienced with acute pain. However in some cases there is overlapping of the nerve pathways which can result in confusing messages, causing pain to be felt in different areas of the body. This pain may be a sharper ache with a tickling sensation. A massage therapist will be able to treat this with trigger point therapy. This is known as referred pain, the nerves carrying the sensation of pain merge with other nerves before they reach the brain. For example, a hip problem could be felt in the knee, problems with the neck could felt in the shoulder and down to the hands, a problem with the lower back could be felt left in the gluteus and down the right of the hamstring as well as the left calve. A problem with foot pain may be experienced in the calve.
At this stage it is important to still manage the pain with ice but also to stimulate the healing process by applying heat as well. In future blog pages we will discuss treatment in more depth.
Massage can very beneficial at this stage to help:
- Realign muscles
- Stimulate blood flow to the area
- Increase flexibility and mobility
Pain can be treated by medication, but it will not go away until its cause has been removed. Pain should be interpreted as a warning sign of tissue injury and should lead to reduced activity or complete rest from activity.